The Snowy Owl is getting closer to the edge of the abyss

Due to the small and rapidly declining population, the snowy was uplisted in 2017 to being a vulnerable species by the IUCN

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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The Snowy Owl is getting closer to the edge of the abyss

The snowy owl colonizes and reproduces in the tundra of the regions of northern Europe and northern America, in winter we can observe phenomena of erraticism, or rather some individuals may descend in latitude with respect to their range.

Due to the small and rapidly declining population, the snowy was uplisted in 2017 to being a vulnerable species by the IUCN. A 52% decline has been inferred for the North American population since the 1960s with another even more drastic estimate placing the decline from 1970 to 2014 at 64%.

The males emit low, powerful, slightly shrill whistles. They are often given two at a time, but can include up to six whistles in a row. It feeds on lemmings, small rodents and voles; to hunt it is capable of remaining motionless during the flight in a precise point by rapidly beating its wings.

It kills prey by breaking their spine with sharp claws that grab the prey more easily and with a speed much higher than that of a rodent. In recent years, the rarefaction of small mammals has forced snowy owls to devote themselves to catching other birds such as ducks, pelagic birds and small passerines.

The species builds its nests on the ground, digging a small pit on top of a slight rise, in order to have good visibility, easy access to the hunting area and a position above the snow. The mating season, in the month of May, then leads the female to lay from 5 to 14 eggs, depending on the abundance of available nourishment; the eggs are laid singly, usually every other day.

The brooding period lasts 32-34 days and after hatching both parents take care of the chicks. The plumage of the adult male is almost entirely white, with the exception of a few small black spots on the scapular feathers, on the sides of the head and on the body.

That of the adult female, denotes dark streaks on a white background, an aspect that guarantees excellent camouflage among the partially snow-covered rocks where usually the couple places the nest. It differs from the other species of the genus Bubo due to the basically clear colors and the absence of ear tufts.

Although it is often referred to as a snowy owl, it is a real owl. The snowy owl can live a long life for a bird. Records show that the oldest snowy owls in captivity can live to 25 to even 30 years of age. Typical lifespans probably reach around 10 years in the wild.

Snowy owls may hunt at nearly at any time of the day or night, but may not attempt to do so during particularly severe weather